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Adventures in Cartooning: How to Turn Your Doodles Into Comics Paperback – March 31, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Created by the Center for Cartoon Studies' director and two of his former students, this how-to-make-comics book for young readers takes a couple of unusual tacks. For one thing, it skips the usual rudiments of how to draw in favor of explaining the formal characteristics of comics: panels, balloons, lettering and so on. For another, it doubles as a story—about a knight on a quest for a bubblegum–chewing dragon, and the magic elf who teaches the knight all about the joy of cartooning. It's a cute premise, and the art's simple, bold brushstrokes and flat colors are zippy and fun. Sturm and company even sneak in a few comics in-jokes (when several characters fall into water, the elf exclaims I guess this would be called a SPLASH panel!). Unfortunately, the plot and the tutorial material repeatedly stumble over each other: the goofy twists in the story occasionally have a bit of instruction shoehorned in, but more often don't serve any educational purpose—or simply seem like the result of stream-of-consciousness jam cartooning. And kids looking for cartooning guidance may be frustrated to find that the book takes its readers' ability to draw expressively for granted. (Apr.)
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*Starred Review* Not quite a how-to book, as the cover might suggest, this is rather a stupendous new high for children’s graphic novels, spearheaded by comics maestro Sturm (Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow, 2007). Ostensibly, this is the adventure of an eager knight, a sweet-toothed horse, and a magic elf hunting down a gum-chewing dragon, and those reading for the adventure itself will not be disappointed, filled as it is with humor, action, and a great girl-empowering twist. But along the way, lessons in the language of sequential art are woven seamlessly into the narrative, explaining the basics of how elements such as panels and word balloons work, while concluding bonus features offer specifics on terminology (like gutters and stems) and common symbols (like speed lines). Newcomers Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost, using varying page compositions to keep the sizable volume visually captivating, have constructed a tale that works just as well as a read-aloud for the very young as it does a lesson for everyone from fans of the form to the wholly uninitiated. As an examination of the medium, it’s a supremely worthy spiritual legacy to Scott McCloud’s seminal Understanding Comics (1993). As a straight-up graphic adventure, it may be the best of the year. Preschool-Grade 5. --Jesse Karp
Top customer reviews
The book grew out of an assignment given by the author, James Sturm, at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont. Sturm was inspired by " Ed Emberly's Drawing Book: Make a World" to start his own cartooning school. If you or your children have ever seen Emberly's books, you already know that Emberly strongly believes that anyone who can draw circles, lines, dots, and polygons can doodle almost anything. In his books, you can find instructions on doodling a camel, vampire, truck, robot, skyscraper, airplane, alligator, alien, etc., all using these simple graphic elements.
However, Adventures in Cartooning is much more than a how-to book. The book contains an ingenious fairy tale-on-its-head, of a knight, a missing princess, a cartoon fairy, a candy-loving horse named Edward, people transformed into vegetables, formidable castle walls, a journey inside a whale, and a fire-breathing dragon. Along the way, the fairy shows how panels can demonstrate action over time, convey scale, organize the order of conversation, show the place and time of the cartoons, demonstrate superpowers (walking over water, on the moon, in the North Pole, inside the whale). He shows how thought bubbles are different from action bubbles (kazam!) from speech bubbles. He also shows how panels can be manipulated to show how tall (e.g. castle wall) or deep (e.g. ocean) the backgrounds are. The thought bubbles are hilarious: the knight dreams of ways to get across the wall (helicopter, wings, tunnels), and Edward dreams of doughnuts and lollipops.
You can tell that this is an innocent books with humor that will appeal to kids from ages 3 to 12. In fact, I chose this book to bring to story-time at school, for a class of second graders. They ate it up. We read together, and I asked them questions, such as "What do you think will happen next?" "Why are the panels dotted?" (They are inside the whale) "Why do the speech bubbles overlap?" (Everyone is talking at once) We had so much fun. They loved that the ending of the book has a few surprises. The kids said they wanted to go home and ask their parents for the book. The teacher also loved the book. It didn't hurt that I brought a snack of cheesy bread for the class (always bribe your critics).
It is a paperback book, but the paper is thick, semi-glossy, and of good quality. It is well worth the price of the book. I applaud the authors for contributing this original book to the children's library.
The book has attractive, effective illustrations and engaging text that makes the book's tips not only fun to read, but also easy to put into practice. For burgeoning or experienced comics, this book is a keeper.
So I finally decided to purchase it, and when it arrived, I was surprised to see that it was targeted at kids (see what happens when you don't read the description)? Not to worry, though, because it serves as a fantastic inspiration for anyone interested in creating comics, even if they think they're not "good enough". The artwork is very simple and fun, and breaks down any walls of intimidation that more comprehensive instructional books may put up around the reader.
In fact, within the first couple of pages, a princess trying to make a comic declares in frustration, "I just can't draw well enough to make a comic!!!" -- to which the Magic Cartooning Elf replies, "THAT'S NOT TRUE!!!", and in the next pages eases any fear the reader may have about making comics.
I'm organizing a community drawing event this fall, and this book is going to be used quite a bit during that event!
This is a must-have for every parent with creatively-inclined children, or for anyone of any age interested in creating comics.